Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Climbing the Dent Blanche South Ridge

~ Wednesday 22nd July 2015

We made the long haul up to the newly extended Dent Blanche hut on Sunday. Most of the new building is dedicated to a radio repeater station for the police and border patrol, but the hut now has indoor toilets and a proper boot-room - a big improvement.

An evening thunderstorm soaked the rock, but luckily it didn't freeze low down and dried quickly in the morning, allowing us to climb the excellent red rock of the Grand Gendarme direct.

Climbing Valais 4000 Metre Peaks

Dent Blanche Grande Gendarme Mountain Guide

Climbing Dent Blanche British Mountain Guide

Guided ascent of Dent Blanche, Arolla

Climbing Dent Blanche final summit slopes

Airy climbing on the Dent Blanche descent

Progression week

~ Friday 17th July 2015

As the heatwave continues it's been tricky finding good conditions, but rocky ridges have been a safe bet. After a technical glacier day on the Moiry glacier...

6:1 crevasse rescue haul

...we had a rare (recently!) cloudy day on the Pointes de Mourtis-Dent des Rosse traverse.

With some "a cheval" ridge riding!

Followed by some excellent climbing up to the main summit of the Dent des Rosses.

A semi rest day of training and multi-pitch climbing in Arolla...

Next we went up to the Vignettes hut on a hot and sweaty day, ready for the traverse of the Éveque. The approach to the S ridge of the Éveque is still fine, but it won't survive too much more hot weather!

Conditions on the ridge were perfect, smiles all round!

Descent from the Éveque down the normal route is airy and a little loose, but leads quickly to fast glacier.

After a second night in the hut, and hoping to do the excellent Pigne d'Arolla-Mont Blanc de Cheilon traverse, we left the hut early. Sunrise was stunning, but with huge thunder clouds on the horizon we opted for the scenic, but shorter, Pigne traverse.

Clouds building, and cows lying down. Time for cake and tea!

Weekly Summary

~ Saturday 11th July 2015

It's been a busy and sunny, but with Frostguiding teams finding good conditions on a good variety of routes.

- Lagginhorn normal route, Jagihorn rock climbing, West ridge of Dent de Tsalion, Aiguille de la Tsa, Douves Blanches, Salbitshijen South Ridge, Bishorn, Couronne de Bréona, Monta Rosa summits, Point de Vouasson, Pointes de Mourti, Pollux, Gran Paradiso

Today is changeover day, with new people arriving and some staying on for a second week. Their "rest" day seems to involve paragliding and via ferrata!

Mont Dolent

~ Friday 3rd July 2015

Mont Dolent is a crucial peak on the Swiss Perimeter - the borders of Italy, France and Switzerland meet on the summit. With 3 countries only a step away, you can do your banking, drink nice coffee and buy an unreliable car without walking too far (or many other variations on the old joke)

We hiked sweatily out of Swiss Val Ferret in the heatwave, passing through the lovely la Peule alpage on the way.

La Peule alpage

Later, and even hotter, we reached the Grand Col Ferret.

Grand Col Ferret

Even later, and hotter still, we collapsed at the Fiorio Bivouac hut, a fine spot to finish the day with tomorrows objective in view in the background.

Fiorio bivouac

Sadly the heatwave meant any hopes of firm snow were in vain, even with our 2am start time. Snow, like revenge, is best served cold. When it's warm and wet it means upwards progress needs character-building effort, but eventually we reached the airy summit ridge of Mont Dolent.

Fine views to the Argentiere basin

Looking back down the summit ridge

Mont Dolent summit virgin - not on the summit!

Aiguille d'Argentiere Whymper Route

~ Wednesday 1st July 2015

A warm welcome and pleasant evening at the Trient hut was somewhat compromised by a 3am breakfast...but a long day ahead and a warm forecast left no choice but a pre-dawn start.

Bleary eyes and poor camera focussing in the early morning!

We found great, well-frozen snow at the fenetre de Saleina - surely a good omen for the Col du Chardonnet?

Argentiere North Face seracs in the dawn light

A quick scuttle past the Argentiere north face seracs revealed the truth though - the Swiss side of the Col de Chardonnet, (in)famous in ski-touring circles, was looking very bare. A determined pull got me over the bergschrund, then 10m of nice snow-ice led into a longish section best described as "mixed".

Swiss side of the Col du Chardonnet. Nice

Thankfully there was still some nice snow at the top, and we soon popped out at the col. Feeling somewhat committed to the plan it was a relief to find the snow in France still nice and chilly. A quick descent, a sharp left turn, and a tiring slog following Ibex tracks up the Glacier Supérieur du Chardonnet put us in position to tackle the tricky bit of the Whymper route, which weaves a complex line up the NW face. This is in fact the line of the first ascent of the Aiguille d'Argentiere - an all-star team of Whymper, Croz, Charlet and Payot climbed this way in 1864, presumably unaware that a more direct and easier (though serious) line existed up the hidden Milieu Glacier. It must have taken considerable optimism to continue when faced with this view!

Hidden amongst the rock buttresses lies a narrow gully, which leads up to an impressive position on the NW ridge.

Glacier Supérieure du Chardonnet, and the narrow "S" gully of the Whymper route.

Above, a steep rock face seems to block the way, but at the last minute the snow finish of the North face appears and offers a great finale. The exposure on the face is huge, amplified by the contrast with the narrow gully below!

The final steps on the north face with the Saleina glacier far below

Counter-balanced on the Aiguille d'Argentiere Summit Ridge

The summit of the Aiguille d'Argentiere is a magnificent spot with stunning views, tempered by anticipation of the descent of the Milieu glacier. This is steep, long and serious - an eye-opening exercise in cramponning! It's a relief when the angle eases and you can enjoy the view.

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